At Harvard’s Wyss Institute researchers used a 3D printer to essentially recreate the proximal tubules found within kidneys, potentially opening up the possibility of printing complex structures that can be used to replace diseased tissues and organs.
The kidney is an organ made of hundreds of thousands of functionally identical nephrons, each having proximal tubules through which most nutrients that don’t need to be filtered out reenter the blood stream.
To create these proximal tubules, the Wyss team first 3D printed a silicone mold and then cast an extracellular matrix that can host living cells. The scientists then used a special “fugitive” ink to print the windy volumetric shape of the tubules on top of the matrix. Another layer of the matrix was then placed on top and the fugitive ink washed away, leaving a hollow curvy channel within a unified matrix. Epithelial cells were then added to pervade the structure and make home in it. Once the cells settled in, the new channel began to have functional properties in many ways similar to proximal tubules.
The tubules can be stored within perfusion tissue chips for months at a time without losing their ability to host functional living cells, allowing them to be used as needed. For now they’ll be an excellent platform for studying the kidneys and how various drugs may affect kidney behavior. In the future, though, the technology may lead the way to 3D printing of larger, more complex tissue types.
Here’s video from the Wyss Institute showing off their research:
Top image: Human proximal tubule cells adhere to the hollow channel, forming a functional, 3D renal architecture. Credit: Lewis Lab/Wyss Institute at Harvard University
Study in journal Scientific Reports: Bioprinting of 3D Convoluted Renal Proximal Tubules on Perfusable Chips
Via: Wyss Institute